Global Finance is Similar to Human Cell, How Blockchain Changes Its Core

Let’s say you’re a hedge fund billionaire who has made his fortune pioneering algorithmically-backed investment strategies. What do you do when you are looking for a new challenge?

Well, David Elliot Shaw, computer wizard and former employer of Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, founded his own biotech laboratory and turned his attention to the scientific discipline of studying molecular dynamics. It seems the skillset required for computational finance will also equip you with just the right tools for becoming a leading researcher in computational biology.


Financial super-structure

Finding the hidden signal in the noise of overflowing financial market data is a hyper-complex task that provides valuable lessons for the equally ambitious goal of modeling the structure and interaction of proteins, data needed for the development of new drugs. Shaw’s amazing biography makes you wonder: If a quant successfully applies his skills to biology, can a biologist use his knowledge to understand finance?

The global financial super-structure is alive. The exchange rates at the foreign exchange markets are the surface ripples of an unimaginable confluence of data and information. It is no coincidence that the long-term ups and downs of a price index have an uncanny resemblance to the graphs that result from plotting the electrical activity of a brain.

German popular science writer Bernhard Kegel has described human biology as an “organismic joint venture” referring to the growing realization among researchers that our bodies are co-inhabited by a vast array of various symbiotic microorganisms all of which are essential to our own survival.

Long live the holobiont!

Past estimates put the ratio of bacteria to human cells in a single person at 10:1. The latest numbers have since been revised to a staggering 1:1 ratio. One bacterium for every human cell. This translates to 0.2 kg of bacterial biomass in a 70 kg person. Thus, the human body can be thought of as a composite life form with many stakeholders.

“Biologists refer to the strategic partnership among organisms of varying orders of magnitude as a “holobiont.” Below us the bacteria, and above?”

With biology waking up to the insight that different species assemble into gigantic coalitions,the notion becomes increasingly likely that human beings themselves might be positioned at an intermediary level of the edifice of life, not at the top. Medieval thought conceived of man as being but one of the elements in the “great chain of being.”

In modern terms, we might say that human beings are nested at a middle layer of a vast hierarchical scale-free network. These networks are characterized by a property called self-similarity: Many highly integrated small modules group into larger modules, which in turn can be integrated into even larger modules.

“Human-made systems, such as the Internet or finance, mirror molecular networks that carry out essential life functions.”

Around the same time that David E. Shaw began his own work on computational biology in 2002, Hungarian researchers Albert-László Barabási and Zoltán N. Oltvai discovered the…